William Kent, Architectural drawing for the Marble Parlour at Houghton, ca. 1730. Black and brown ink, brown wash on paper, Marquess of Cholmondeley, Houghton Hall. Photo: Pete Huggins, by kind permission of Houghton Hall, EX.2013.HH.132

Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House

Discover the history and elegance of Houghton Hall, one of England’s grandest country houses, built in the 1720s by Sir Robert Walpole (1676 – 1745), Britain’s first prime minister. Constructed in the Palladian style by architects James Gibbs and Colen Campbell and decorated by the influential designer William Kent, it has survived through the centuries in a remarkably well-preserved state.

Tucked away in Norfolk, England, Houghton Hall was built as a setting for Walpole’s spectacular collection of old-master and 18th-century paintings, tapestries, and Roman antiquities. His strong tradition of artistic patronage and collecting was continued by members of the Cholmondeley family when they inherited the estate in 1789.

This exhibition captures an intimate look inside Houghton Hall amid a re-creation of some of its spectacular interiors. Rarely exhibited treasures and exquisite furniture that has been passed down through the centuries evoke the sophistication of aristocratic entertainment in the 18th century.

Key highlights include works by British painters Thomas Gainsborough, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and William Hogarth; Italian painters Artemisia Gentileschi and Andrea del Sarto; and American painter John Singer Sargent. This exhibition also offers a unique opportunity to view Houghton Hall’s distinguished collection of 18th-century silver, Roman marble busts, 17th-century Mortlake tapestries, Sèvres porcelain, and a fascinating group of objects reflecting the present owner’s role as hereditary Lord Great Chamberlain. 


Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in collaboration with Houghton Hall. An indemnity has been granted by the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. 

Director’s Circle
The Buena Vista Fund of Horizons Foundation
The Michael Taylor Trust
Diane B. Wilsey

Conservator’s Circle
Mr. and Mrs. Carl F. Pascarella

Patron’s Circle
Mr. and Mrs. Adolphus Andrews, Jr.
Giselle Parry-Farris and Ray K. Farris
Mr. and Mrs. William Hamilton

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Currently on view